Aug 03, 2012 3:46 PM GMT
Pretty cool from a business standpoint. Even more interesting that it's being developed by one of the guys who used to run McDonald's - "At Lyfe Kitchen (the name is an acronym for Love Your Food Everyday), all the cookies shall be dairy-free, all the beef from grass-fed, humanely raised cows. At Lyfe Kitchen there shall be no butter, no cream, no white sugar, no white flour, no high-fructose corn syrup, no GMOs, no trans fats, no additives, and no need for alarm: There will still be plenty of burgers, not to mention manifold kegs of organic beer and carafes of biodynamic wine".
The big dude with the tattoos and a bad case of five o’clock shadow served up a plate of roasted kabocha squash, organic brussels sprouts, and free-range chicken breast. None of this would have been worth noting had the dish been just another locavore delicacy, prepared by just another hipster chef, during just another lunch hour here among the food-obsessed in Palo Alto, California.
But this artfully arranged plate—the chicken breaded and “unfried,” the veggies tossed with parsley and chives in a Dijon vinaigrette, all sprinkled with dried cranberries—was something else. It was the future.
I had come to the artisanally fed vale of Facebook and Tesla to sample the first fruits of Lyfe Kitchen, a soon-to-be-chain of restaurants that might just shift the calculus of American cuisine. At Lyfe Kitchen (the name is an acronym for Love Your Food Everyday), all the cookies shall be dairy-free, all the beef from grass-fed, humanely raised cows. At Lyfe Kitchen there shall be no butter, no cream, no white sugar, no white flour, no high-fructose corn syrup, no GMOs, no trans fats, no additives, and no need for alarm: There will still be plenty of burgers, not to mention manifold kegs of organic beer and carafes of biodynamic wine. None of this would seem surprising if we were talking about one or 10 or even 20 outposts nationwide. But Lyfe’s ambition is to open hundreds of restaurants around the country, in the span of just five years.
Yes, for the moment the only Lyfe Kitchen is here on Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto. It opened less than a year ago as a sort of prototype. But imagine tens of millions of local, sustainable gourmet meals, served with the efficiency and economy that one expects from a national fast-food chain. Such a feat of feeding has never before been attempted, and if Lyfe Kitchen succeeds, the results will reverberate far beyond our stomachs.
There is one overriding reason to believe that this venture will work. The cofounder and chief executive of Lyfe is Mike Roberts, former president and chief operating officer of McDonald’s. He and some of his erstwhile McDonald’s colleagues have bet a few million bucks that an eco-embracing, mega-natural startup will blaze the trail to their rightful share of the billions and billions served by Burger King, KFC, Subway, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Wendy’s.
Lyfe’s aim is not just to build a radically sustainable, healthy brand of fast food. The former Golden Archers hope to transform the way the world produces organic ingredients, doing for responsibly grown meat and veggies what McDonald’s did for factory-farmed beef. These days, the utopian vision of responsible agriculture is premised on a return to small and slow. If Roberts is right, though, we’ll have to swallow a paradox as preposterous as a vegan Whopper: The nirvana of eco-gastronomy may at long last be attained, but only thanks to the efficiencies of supply-chain management.